As co-founders of Neurable, Ramses Alcaide and Adam Molnar have had front-row seats to the rapid development of BCI technology over the past decade. Today, the two of them are sharing their insights on the state of the technology today, and the challenges and successes they’ve witnessed alongside the development of Enten.
How would you describe the status quo when it comes to BCI technology today?
Adam: Right now, BCI technology as status quo remains primarily in the realm of research, medical applications, R&D, and niche one-off novelties. It’s an extremely promising category of technologies that hasn’t quite yet hit the maturity inflection point to join everyday applications, which is what we’re aiming to change at Neurable. We are confident that Enten can change this. To date, there have been a handful of companies who have “launched” consumer brain-computer interfaces but have done the field a disservice by leaning into the “sexiness” of the technology, overhyping claims and underdelivering performance.
Ramses: Unlimited potential. We’re really just at the start of what’s possible for this industry, both from a commercial and consumer perspective. Despite some of the public misconceptions around how this technology actually works, I think we’re at the beginning of a very positive and long-term relationship with brain-computer interfaces. It’s an incredibly exciting time.
What are some of the successes of BCI technology that you’ve seen in the past decade?
Adam: We’ve seen incredible advancements in BCI technology in just the past few years, let alone the decade. Ten years ago, a product like Enten wouldn’t have seemed feasible—now, we’re witnessing a revolution in the industry where consumer BCI is within reach.
Ramses: Over the course of my career, BCIs have essentially gone from a lab experiment to something that’s on the cusp of being a technology that we use on a daily basis. Not only are we able to use BCI technology to heal injuries and aid with mobility, but we can also now use it to actively enhance our performance and productivity, which is exactly what we designed Enten to do. We’re bringing this kind of innovation from the lab directly into people’s homes. That’s just one example of how the accessibility of these products is skyrocketing.
What about some of the challenges?
Ramses: In the early days of AI, a popular refrain was that robots would take over not only our jobs but the entire world. Similarly, BCIs are often thought of as these science fiction “mindr eading” devices, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Any apprehension that consumers feel today needs to be met with clear information and education—and it’s frustrating that there still is a lack of clarity in the industry around the functionality and privacy of these devices. It only fuels the “science fiction” stereotypes. I see these negative stereotypes as one of the biggest challenges we face as an industry today.
Adam: The truth is that there’s simply a lot of education that goes into teaching people what this kind of technology is and isn’t. When you’re dealing with perceptions like the ones Ramses mentioned, and companies are overhyping their products and end up making mistakes that only reinforce those perceptions, it can be difficult to get through to people who would otherwise be much faster adopters.
You mentioned the overhyping of technology as a challenge. What role does hype play in negative perceptions of BCI products?
Ramses: To me, hype is the biggest offender. It’s dangerous because it sets consumer expectations far too high. Today’s BCI technology is incredibly exciting—and at Neurable, we’re thrilled to build the products of the future—but in our view, it’s better to be realistic about it than to overhype it. If you make outrageous claims about neuroscience, that’s more of a show than it is technology—and it leads to a lack of respect for the industry at large when those claims can’t be backed up.
I think the best way to manage those perceptions is simply for companies to do better when it comes to ethics. Those companies need to consciously understand that making mistakes when it comes to, say, data privacy is not an option. If we want to rewrite the narrative and show people the positive aspects of BCI technology, then ethics need to come first.
Adam: Fortunately, this industry is still very nascent. Because BCI companies haven’t yet hit certain maturity inflection points, there’s a real opportunity to build those guardrails and set those expectations with their consumers. Companies just need to commit to them.
So, what’s your philosophy on building those ethical guardrails?
Adam: The first core principle of “good” data ethics is that data should benefit the person from whom it’s derived. That’s been a core tenet of our philosophy from the start. In fact, we recently published a whitepaper outlining the technology behind Enten, so consumers have all the information right in front of them. It’s one of the many ways we’re hoping to set a standard of transparency in the industry—and we hope that other companies will begin to hold themselves to as high of a standard as we do. For example, Neurable is one of the first, if not only, BCI companies to openly commit to not selling user data.
Ramses: Also, what’s important to remember is that Neurable grew out of a university lab. That means that all of these ethical standards, like adherence to HIPAA, have been there since our founding. Those guardrails have always been etched into our company—it’s not a question for us.
This is part 1 of 2 of the interview with Ramses and Adam. Read Part 2: The Road Ahead: What Neurotech Needs to Get Right to Achieve Broad Adoption